Interfaith Shelter Network History Page


Who we are, our mission, our origins and keys to success. As a member of San Diego’s continuum of care for the homeless, ISN serves San Diego’s homeless and those at-risk of homelessness with case managed, basic services. ISN’s programs serve San Diego’s “situationally” (short-term) homeless.

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Who We Are

Homelessness has long been a pervasive problem in San Diego. Multiple factors cause more than 7,500 people to face homelessness each year, according to the 2020 San Diego “We All Count” report.

Since 1986, ISN has consistently engaged the community in a successful collaboration that responds to the needs of the homeless community and provides effective solutions to the underlying barriers to self-sufficiency and permanent housing. We provide trauma-informed and client-centered services that help address housing affordability, underemployment, and lack of adequate income.

young boy looking up and smiling


Interfaith Shelter Network’s mission is to enable those we serve to move toward self-sufficiency by coordinating the efforts of participating congregations, social service agencies, and governmental programs in order to provide shelter and other resources to homeless individuals and families in the San Diego region.

young boy looking up and smiling


Interfaith Shelter Network (ISN) was founded in 1986, when the Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) brought together a group of congregations and social service agencies to provide case managed emergency shelter at local congregations during the winter months. When the RTFH put out a request for proposals (RFP) for an agency to take over the program in 1989, the Ecumenical Council of San Diego (EC) received the award. The Rotational Shelter Program, once established, grew to include congregations throughout the region, either supplying shelter space or support.

In 1990, the EC added a transitional housing program for families, utilizing five scattered sites. The program evolved into the El Nido (Spanish: the Nest) DV transitional housing program in 1997. El Nido is housed in a secure building, purchased with the help of a HUD grant. The El Nido program helps homeless women with children who are fleeing domestic violence. The organization was renamed the Interfaith Shelter Network of San Diego (ISN) in 2010, when the Ecumenical Council closed its doors.

In 2014, ISN added a Rapid Re-Housing Program, which evolved into the ISN Housing Program. The Housing Program provides case-managed, limited financial assistance to assist low-income households to either acquire or retain permanent housing.

young boy looking up and smiling

Key to Success

A member of San Diego’s continuum of care for the homeless, ISN serves San Diego’s homeless and those at-risk of homelessness with case managed, basic services. Our successful strategy is to provide highly skilled case managers who partner with our clients to help them improve their long-term ability to remain permanently housed. Successful applicants enter our programs agreeing to work with case managers to set personal goals and benchmarks to success and take the necessary actions to meet them.

young boy looking up and smiling

Who We Help

ISN’s programs serve San Diego’s “situationally” (short-term) homeless. Nearly 80% of San Diego’s homeless fit this category. They have lost or are at-risk of losing their housing due to poverty, loss of employment, illness, domestic violence, death or departure of a partner who shared living expenses, underemployment, or inadequate working skills. They are actively seeking to improve their lives.

young boy looking up and smiling

Our Partners

ISN mobilizes and empowers the community to take effective action against homelessness. The organization is overseen by a 9-member volunteer board of directors and employs a minimal staff. Sixty local congregations scattered across the urban County provide shelter sites and another 50-plus congregations and community organizations provide food and support.

ISN employs the time, talent and treasure of more than 3,000 volunteers each year. Volunteers help deliver the emergency shelter program, support the El Nido families with goods and special events, and provide occasional office support.

ISN has worked in partnership with the City and County of San Diego since its inception and collaborates or links with numerous social service organizations, councils, and planning committees dedicated to eradicating homelessness.

Our Policy

Interfaith Shelter Network of San Diego is funded in part by the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency with Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program funds provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) through the Cities of Chula Vista, El Cajon, and San Diego. The Interfaith Shelter Network does not discriminate based on race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, age or disabilities in hiring practice or provision of services.